Just over 1100 species of beetle have been recorded in Ayrshire, which is almost a third of the UK total. This high figure is partly explained by the range of habitats available from seaside to upland and partly by Ayrshire’s location on the mild west coast. The dune systems along the coast are particularly interesting and important at a national level with several species reaching their northern UK limit in the Ardeer area including the impressive Minotaur beetle Typhaeus typhoeus and the dung beetle-like Phylan gibbus.
Surveys undertaken on sand dunes in Ayrshire have highlighted the importance of this habitat type for beetles (Coleoptera) and bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), in particular the Stevenston beach Local Nature Reserve (LNR), Gailes Marsh and the Ardeer Peninsula. Several species in both groups were shown to be either rare in Scotland or else near their northern limits for the UK. Such species include Stictoleptura rubra, a longhorn beetle whose main distribution is in the south and east of England, which is now known to be present in Ayrshire. Areas of deadwood provide nests for wasps such Ectemnius ruficornis and Crossocerus megacephalus which nest in tunnels in deadwood created by beetle larvae, whereas the flower bee Anthophora furcata excavates its own holes in rotten wood.
Away from the coast there national rarities such as the Red Data book water beetle Hydroporus elongatulus which is found only in wetlands with just the right nutrient status. The nationally scarce green Oedemera virescens seems to be an Ayrshire specialist and is quite readily found in buttercup flowers in May and June. Our woodland beetles are often less easily spotted but include impressive longhorn beetles such as Rhagium bifasciatum and the beautifully camouflaged Pogonocherus hispidus. Even the spoil heaps from past mining activities have their specialist beetle fauna with tiger beetles Cicindela campestris being one of the more obvious species but also including less common species such as the rove beetle Platydracus latebricola. In the uplands the bogs and moorland also have their specialist beetles. Dalmellington and Airds Mosses both have the scarce Agonum ericeti and the moorland hosts Carabus nitens the most handsome of all our ground beetles.
Bees and wasps are a common sight in gardens, but can also be found in other habitats. This includes over fifteen species of bumblebee, among the most commonest being the Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris, Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum and the easily recognised Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius. There are many species of solitary bee, and many resemble small honey bees. Some, such as the Northern Colletes Bee Colletes floralis, are nationally rare whilst others are common in gardens in spring and are important pollinators of garden flowers and crops.
However in spite of this apparent richness there is still a lot to be learned about Ayrshire’s beetles. Their (generally) small size makes them difficult to survey and there are many areas where no surveys have been carried out. There is great scope for making new discoveries among this very varied and interesting group of insects.
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